HREE G1 WINNERS TOP MAKTOUM CHALLENGE R2; WINTER LIGHTNING AND RAYYA RENEW RIVALRY; COMICAS BRINGS SHARP FORM TO AL SHINDAGHA
Thursday’s fifth meeting of the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse is a quality one with three feature races on dirt, as well as the Meydan Classic Trial on the turf. The official feature is the 1900m Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 sponsored by Gulf News, a race Saeed bin Suroor has won no less than ten times, including in 2003 with subsequent Dubai World Cup (G1) hero Moon Ballad.
Some of the horses that have succeeded in this contest have gone on to win the Dubai World Cup, as well. Saeed bin Suroor’s 2014 Al Maktoum R2 winner Prince Bishop, was second in the 2015 renewal before landing that year’s World Cup. Stablemate African Story, who chased him home in 2014, then won the World Cup eight weeks later from Prince Bishop.
This year Suroor relies on Thunder Snow (Christophe Soumillon rides, post-position 8), a G1 winner as a juvenile and last year as a three-year-old in Europe. He also landed both the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) and UAE Derby (G2) in 2017. The 4-year-old was second in the 1600m Al Maktoum Challenge R1 on his seasonal reappearance and his trainer expects the return to 1900m, the course and distance of his UAE Derby victory, to suit him.
“Thunder Snow has been doing well since his return in the first round and the step up in trip will suit,” bin Suroor said. “He is in good form, has been working well and is ready to go. We have a good record in this race and have won it with some very good horses.”
In that Al Maktoum Challenge R1 four weeks ago, he chased home Heavy Metal (Mickael Barzalona, post 6), trained by Salem bin Ghadayer and never headed on that. It was a sixth Meydan dirt victory for the horse, all bar one over that 1600m. He is stepping up to 1900m for the first time locally on Thursday. The 8-year-old did try 2000m on turf, albeit unsuccessfully, on two occasions in England back in May 2014.
“Obviously, he loves it at Meydan on the dirt surface and he has continued to work very well since his last win,” bin Ghadayer said. “This is a different test, over further, but we could not be happier with the horse at home.”
Last year, the race developed into a duel between a pair making their local debuts who each return on Thursday, Furia Cruzada (Antonio Fresu, post 5) and Second Summer (Patrick Dobbs, post 1), with the former just nosing home ahead for trainer Erwan Charpy. She hopes to emulate Best Of The Bests and Jack Sullivan, who have both defended their crowns successfully in this.
“She seems in good form; comparable to the shape she was in last year,” Charpy said. “She will run well in a good renewal.”
Trained by Doug Watson, Second Summer finished his 2017 Meydan campaign with a thrilling victory in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup card. However, his trainer has always considered him better over this kind of trip. He will need to bounce back after a flat return in December in the 2000m Entisar after a slow start.
Satish Seemar-trained North America (Richard Mullen, post 4) blew the start in Round 1 and is much better than able to show on that occasion. Like Heavy Metal, he needs to prove his stamina, but is a very capable performer. Farooq Racing’s Eragon (John Egan, post 2), like Furia Cruzada a multiple G1 winner in Argentina, makes his first start since August and must prove effective over beyond the 1600m over which he has won said top-level affairs.
The main support race, the 1200m Al Shindagha Sprint sponsored by gulfnews.com (G3), features a rematch between Comicas (William Buick, post 2), Muarrab (Jim Crowley, post 4), Reynaldothewizard (Mullen, post 6) and My Catch (Dobbs, post 1) who filled the first four places in the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes in that order three weeks prior over the same course and distance. Both Muarrab and Reynaldothewizard are past winners of the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (G1), a race in which Godolphin’s Comicas was second last year.
“I was delighted with the performance of Comicas in the Dubawi Stakes and he came out of that race well,” Appleby said. “We are taking on the same horses again, but under a penalty. He is in great nick though, and should be bang on there again.”
The 1600m UAE 1000 Guineas sponsored by Friday, restricted to three-year-old fillies, has attracted a field of eight and is headlined by the 1400m trial first and second, Winter Lightning (Patrick Cosgrave, post 2) and Rayya (Dobbs, post 3). The former, like half-brother Thunder Snow, is trained by bin Suroor for Godolphin.
“She won the trial and has done well since,” bin Suroor said. “She is very like Thunder Snow. She is relaxed and nothing bothers her. There are some nice fillies in the race, but we are looking for another good result.”
Rayya, trained by Watson for Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, like Second Summer, was also having just her second start after an easy victory in a 1400m fillies’ maiden. They again look to be the pair upon whom to focus.
The 3-year-old generation also has a chance on the turf in the 1400m Meydan Classic Trial sponsored by getthat.com, which goes as the sixth race. The maximum field allowed, 16, has been declared with Appleby and Godolphin combining with Zaman (Buick, post 11) who looks a big danger to all after his second in the Vintage Stakes (G2) at Goodwood.
From England, the Richard Hannon-trained Tangled (post 10) should be thereabouts, along with Mutamayel (post 13), trained in Australia by David Hayes for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Photo (C) DRC